HC Deb 14 December 1900 vol 88 cc848-50

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he intends to take some further action to stop the sale of poisonous beer, I as fresh cases of poisoning are still being reported.


My right hon. friend has asked me to reply to this question, the Local Government Board have no power to stop the sale of any particular beer, but I may state that there is reason for believing that the cases of illness which are now coming under observation for the first time are in the main those of persons who received the poison some time since.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

I beg to ask the President of the *See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxvi., page 875. Local Government Board if he can state what steps have been taken to ascertain the facts with regard to the alleged poisoning by beer, into which an inquiry has been instituted by the Local Government Board; if he has yet received any information as to the number of persons who have been affected and the number of deaths which are alleged to have been caused by it; and, if not, whether he will make public the information obtained by the Local Government Board as early as may be after he receives it.


As this matter has excited considerable public interest, perhaps I may be allowed to state somewhat fully the course which has been adopted with respect to it. As regards the steps which have been taken by the Local Government Board, I would repeat what was stated by my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury on Tuesday last, namely, that from the first outbreak of the epidemic the Board have had the matter under observation. Dr. Buchanan, one of the most experienced of their medical inspectors, is visiting the places affected, and has been instructed to obtain all possible information on the subject, including the action taken by those interested in the breweries and manufactories of brewers' sugar concerned, and by the local authorities for detecting arsenic in beer or other substances, which contain chemically manufactured sugar. Moreover, an expert committee, consisting of Sir Lauder Brunton and Drs. Stevenson and Luff (the Analysts to the Home Office), Mr. Gordon Salamon, Dr. Buckley, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Launceston Division have made a careful investigation on behalf of the Manchester Brewers' Central Association. The brewers and manufacturers have given them every possible access to their premises and facilitated in every way their inspection and investigation. The Board's inspector has been in communication with members of the committee, and cordial co-operation and assistance have been rendered both to the committee and the inspector by the Medical Officers of Health for Manchester and Salford. The House may rest assured that everything practicable is being done to ascertain the facts. I am informed that the association has pledged itself to recall or destroy all beer in the brewing of which the implicated substances have been used, and that instructions to this effect have been sent to all the brewers of the association. The obtaining of information as to the number of persons who have been affected and the number of deaths alleged to have been caused forms part of Dr. Buchanan's inquiry, which is not yet complete. His report will be made public as early as practicable after its receipt. I may add that the Board have issued a circular to local authorities recommending them to cause samples to be analysed both of beer and of articles of food in which chemically manufactured sugars may enter.